29 January

Dodo’s friend, Rummy comes over. Ogre instead of worrying in the kitchen as she usually does, about what other delicacy she can ram down her guest’s throat, sits nonchalantly with them, and gives Etcetra and me orders in a soft, cooing voice to fetch this or that.

Etcetra is taken aback into obedience for once. I have to summon up all my powers of self-control to not gape at Ogre.

It’s not that we have never met Rummy before. But he hasn’t come home in a long, long time.

Rummy is saying: “And then she just walked off from there. I couldn’t believe it. I kept standing for a long time, with those dripping ice-cream cones, sure that she would come back. But no way. Not only that, she also took the tickets for the show with her, in her batwa. And she’s the one who had wanted to see the film. Of course, none of us had money to buy a fresh lot of tickets, and so, we grumbled and cursed and went off home. The next day, she didn’t even say ‘sorry’. And she kept that fight going for 5 days, as if somehow the whole thing had been our fault.”

Dodo: “Oh yes, she could sulk for ages. Expecting her to apologize never ever paid off. She could cold shoulder you until damnation day.”

Ogre: “Come on, she wasn’t quite like that. It’s just that she was a little spoilt when she first came to college, and none of you boys did anything to lessen that.”

Dodo, with a silly grin: “Yeah!”

Rummy, with a silly grin too: “Yeah! We did pamper her, didn’t we? And boy, did she take advantage of it?”
Dodo: “Oh yes. Even on our marriage day, she wasn’t talking to me. Do you believe that?”

Rummy: “What? You never told me, yaar.”

Dodo: “Oh yeah? Tell everyone of the torture I was being subjected to on my honeymoon? Right. That would have been like handing over my life to you guys. I would never ever have heard the end of it.”

Ogre: “Can you imagine what Shell would have done with the information?”

Rummy: “He would have hammed it, man.”

All of them laugh, and continue talking of Shell and the personal radio station he hammed from his bedroom, other friends, college days. It was the first time that I heard Dodo speak of The Beautiful One so casually, as if he no longer grieved for her. Mixed up like that in Rummy’s, Ogre’s and Dodo’s reminiscences about their youth, she seems somehow ordinary. Just a young girl, beautiful, spoilt, loved, impetuous. Much like Etcetra.

Suddenly it occurrs to me that had she been living, she would have been here too with her friends, as old as them.  I’d never thought of her, as anything but the young woman I knew when I was a child. But yes, she too would have had grey hair like Dodo, perhaps have put on some weight like Rummy, had wrinkles around her eyes and mouth like Ogre.

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